Richard Stanley is a curious guy, all the promise of his debut feature Hardware evaporated pretty quickly after the lacklustre Dust Devil before being controversially removed from his passion project 1996’s The Island of Dr Moreau (check out the excellent and frequently hilarious documentary of this experience Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr Moreau). So some 25 years later he’s returned to narrative film with Color Out of Space, a HP Lovecraft adaptation, with a score from Colin Stetson (Hereditary) starring Nicholas Cage no less, fresh from his return to interesting films in Mandy. Oh, and Tommy Chong.
Connect the dots. It’s difficult not to build up a fair amount of anticipation for Color Out of Space, and to some extent it delivers. You just have to wait a while. The build up is long, perhaps unnecessarily so as Stanley is at pains to paint the intricacies of the family dynamic. Cage of course is restrained early as the father, buttoned down in glasses, good natured, loving and supportive, caring for his wife, milking alpaca’s, and offering fatherly advice, which gives him plenty of room to move.
When a meteor hits their idyllic retreat odd supernatural events start occurring, not in the least a strange pink hue slowly begins to inhabit the screen. This increases in intensity as family’s behaviour becomes more and more erratic, DNA merges and the Lovecraftian madness begins. Cage delivers another one of his patented Cageian descent into madness performances, as his family disintegrates around him as the alien force infuses itself, Annihilation style into every living being. It may possibly be his most Nic Cage performance yet.
But it’s the remarkable psychedelic effects, the incredible colours, bizarre nightmarish images and Stanley’s decision to not only let Cage off the leash but the entire narrative build into an intense frenzied freak-out that makes it so much fun. In fact the entire final third is a remarkable tripped out at times hilarious cinematic experience. Just when you think it can’t escalate further it finds a way. It’s definitely not perfect, but Stanley’s clearly got nothing to lose, so he’s thrown the veritable kitchen sink at this surreal fever dream and in doing so created an acid drenched midnight movie destined for cult status.